After winning the Heisman Trophy in 2021 as a sophomore, Bryce Young had no choice but to return to the Alabama Crimson Tide for his junior season. In 2022, we saw Young once again have a great year, but he also missed two games due to injury and also didn’t enjoy nearly as much team success.
After two stellar seasons playing in the SEC, Young, as expected, said he will leave Alabama after his junior year and declare for the NFL Draft.
Not only is Young touted as a potential first-round prospect, many view him as the possible top overall pick. Young threw for over 8,000 yards in college, where he routinely faced top competition at Alabama. During that time, Young displayed many impressive traits that could help him at the next level, such as his strong leadership, sharp awareness, and his ability to make something out of nothing.
- Bryce Young stats at Alabama: 65.6% comp rate, 8,035 passing yards, 75 TD, 12 INT
Yet, like any potential pro prospect, he also has his drawbacks. Listed at 6-feet-0, Young doesn’t have the size NFL teams prefer from elite quarterback prospects. It’s a classic case of, do you place more value on the eye test of what he accomplished and can do, or do the measurables taint our view of an otherwise tantalizing skillset?
These are questions we’re sure to hear plenty of back-and-forth discussion about leading up to April 27, when the first day of the 2023 NFL Draft begins.
Related: 2023 NFL Draft order
Following Young’s official declaration for the NFL Draft, let’s evaluate the best landing spots for him with teams projected to have top picks.
Houston Texans find their face of the franchise
Even when they had Deshaun Watson, the Houston Texans failed to supply him with enough talent. Whether it was a shoddy offensive line, a lack of secondary weapons, or just a failing defense, even the Watson days were marred by bad play. It hasn’t changed since he was traded.
Davis Mills, selected in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft, was never really expected to become the team’s franchise quarterback. Yet the Texans gave the former Stanford grad a chance to earn the starting role from the start. Predictably the results haven’t been great, which is why they need to try and identify a long-term solution ASAP.
Young does have a few similar traits to Watson, in that he’s a passer-first but also has an unnatural ability to make plays outside the pocket. Sometimes it’s simply buying more time to make a throw downfield. Other times it’s a frantic effort just to avoid a sack.
This could be a common theme in Houston for a few more seasons, as Young won’t be joining a team flush with talent both on the offensive line or in the pass-catcher department. Yet, he also has shown next-level awareness and an ability to be a trusting locker room leader. When it comes to doing more with less, Young may be the perfect fit for a franchise that still has a lot of holes on the roster.
Detroit Lions roll the dice on Bryce Young
Another team that could present an ideal situation for Young, although in a much different form, is the Detroit Lions. With Jared Goff still under contract through 2024, there is no rush for a rookie to come in and play right away. Yet, there is potential for early playing time, especially if Goff begins to struggle again next season, leading to another below .500 record.
No matter what, Young would likely be given time to sit and learn while he focuses on his development, diving into the playbook and refining his skills. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for what will be a 22-year-old rookie next summer.
Not to mention, if the Lions continue leaning into a run-based approach, Young wouldn’t be asked to be the team’s savior, at least not right away. The last part that intrigues us about Young landing in Detroit would be his reuniting with former Crimson Tide receiver Jameson Williams, who thrived in his final season at Alabama catching passes from Young, leading to his first-round selection a year later.
We see the absurd amount of success from the Joe Burrow-Ja’Marr Chase connection in Cincinnati. Maybe the Lions are convinced they can strike gold in a similar way. Especially since their offensive line is already in a good state.
Carolina Panthers begin a new era
It’s been years since the Carolina Panthers had anything resembling a franchise quarterback. Cam Newton won the NFL’s MVP award in 2015. But we haven’t seen much more glory since. The Panthers have responded by bringing in several former first-round picks, hoping one of their gambles pay off. But none of Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold, or Baker Mayfield could show enough in Carolina to offer any signs of hope.
But these were all players who began their NFL development elsewhere before their organizations ultimately decided they weren’t franchise solutions either. Maybe it’s time the Panthers finally try to identify and draft one of their own prospects, hoping to mold him into the franchise cornerstone they desperately covet.
It won’t matter who the Panthers hire as head coach if they don’t find their QB of the future. Perhaps Young, more than any other incoming prospect, could finally give team owner David Tepper a face of the franchise under center. It’s a risk the Panthers can’t really afford not to take if they want to get back to the playoffs in the near future.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders certainly never imagined they would be anywhere close to a position to draft Young. Heavy investments into the skill players on offense didn’t result in a playoff spot, with Derek Carr now headed out the door in 2023. It now sets up a perfect home for Young.
Alabama didn’t have a great receiving corps in 2022, Young was often asked with lifting everyone up and he did. It would be a very different situation in Las Vegas. Davante Adams, Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow are all signed to long-term deals. Releasing Carr would also create the cap space to re-sign Mack Hollins, who is really stepping up late in the year.
Young spent several years in Bill O’Brien’s offense, following in the footsteps of Mac Jones who thrived in 2021 with Josh McDaniels as his play-caller. All of those connections would tie in nicely, with Young hearing positive things about McDaniels from Carr and the Raiders’ coach having a connection to O’Brien and Nick Saban.
Las Vegas would need to move up to acquire Young. However, it’s evident that owner Mark Davis wants a true franchise quarterback he trusts to win playoff games. Moving up for Young would be a gamble for the front office, but it’s worth the price to acquire a quarterback like Young.